The French economy and health care system

by on March 27, 2007 at 7:38 am in Medicine | Permalink

The French economy may be messed up in many ways, but at least you can’t complain about their health care system.

So wrote one MR commentator, that is my paraphrase I can’t find the exact quotation. 

It is worth noting that the French health care system and the failings of the French economy are closely linked.  The French economy is notorious for its resource immobility.  It is hard to switch sectors, hard to switch jobs, and hard to switch regions.  The upshot is that when government taxes factors of production, or caps the price they command, those factors usually have nowhere else to go other than to consume more leisure.  This makes it easier to cap health care prices and doctors’ wages: everything is frozen in place. 

The more mobile American economy would find it much harder to tax skilled labor and doctors.  For related reasons, American transfer programs tend to be more expensive per
dollar of redistribution, less easily based on the provision of quality services at low prices, and they require more complex bells and
whistles.  NB: This is an argument for not trying to copy Europe, not an argument for trying to copy Europe.  Call it a cost of resource mobility if you wish.

The more a European government takes advantage of immobility, the harder it is to break a vicious economic circle.  Instituting French factor mobility, even were it possible politically, would cause low-price, low-wage sectors to decline in quality.  Factors would flee to more entrepreneurial sectors.  In the meantime, pushing everyone into more leisure lowers wealth and makes it harder to finance a "grand bargain" of palatable economic reforms.  The economy will remain stuck, stuck, stuck.  Some sectors will enjoy a captive audience of skilled labor.

I have spent several months of my life in France, and I do understand that life there is truly splendid in many ways.  But it is hard for me to believe that the French system — viewed as the organic whole it is — is the best way forward for the United States.

PEG March 27, 2007 at 9:06 am

I think I’m the commentor in question. Under “French health care,” I wrote “God knows many things are dysfunctional about France, but the choice to splurge on a healthcare system that, ceteris paribus, isn’t that screwed up, isn’t.”

Your point that the French health care system is connected to the French econonmy as a whole is very interesting. I agree, but I’m not sure it’s the case to the extent you make it out to be. You seem to be saying, basically, that if the U.S. gets French-style healthcare, the rest of its economy will go French. I think that’s a big stretch.

The French healthcare system doesn’t rely that much on immobility. High public sector spending and regulation? Yes. Immobility? Not really.

beloml March 27, 2007 at 9:34 am

Of course it’s superior. If 15,000 elderly French people get in the way,
just kill ‘em off in the next heatwave!

Octagon March 27, 2007 at 10:35 am

Maybe it’s just because I’m a libertarian, but I find Tyler so much more compelling, exciting, and just plain interesting when he’s not rebelling against his George Mason liberty-nest.

Tyler For Safety-nets: weak sauce
Tyler Against Single-Payer: tYlAr r00lz!!1

Dan Karreman March 27, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Actually, that’s not true. French MDs can always go to the US… Oh, wait, no, they can’t. And neither can Indian MDs or Mexican or Swedish or German MDs. Maybe this explains why American MDs earn 4 times as much as Swedish MDs (Sweden is wide open for EU citizens + the Nordic countries).

Mr. Econotarian March 27, 2007 at 6:03 pm

As of 2003, the average income of a French physician was estimated at $55,000; in the U.S. the comparable number was $194,000.

Anon E. Mouse March 27, 2007 at 7:54 pm

I was subjected to orthopedic surgery in France. I should’ve been worried when I noticed the lighter-soot graffitti on the roof of the elevator on my way to the OR.

The surgery was an unqualified failure. Without going into too much detail, I almost lost my leg from a botched tib-fib open reduction/internal fixation (plates and screws in my leg). The screwed (pun intended) everything up — the plates, the bones, the screws were out of position, the ankle was left pointed vice at 90 degrees, and the sutures cut off circulation and caused a massive loss of tissue.

My advice to anyone travelling to Europe: if you get a heart attack or a hangnail–pack it in ice, fly home.

Ragout March 27, 2007 at 8:58 pm

If France is so immobile, why is their productivity growth so high?

And that stuff about the elderly dying in heat waves is silly. Is 15,000/year a higher rate than the US or a lower rate? Well, here in the US we don’t care so we don’t count so we don’t know. When people bother to count, they get high numbers.

priscieve March 28, 2007 at 7:05 am

If France is so immobile, why is their productivity growth so high?

Another reason- because many live off tourism. They are off the books in the offseason, work like animals during the season & safe up money,….

And maybe they don’t count hours when they go on strike??

Jim Outen March 28, 2007 at 1:59 pm

I agree with AvnerUWS concerning the productivity growth. If we said that half of the US economy, for example, had very high productivity growth relative to other countries, but forgot that the statistic didn’t include the other half of everyone working/interacting with the US economy, this is not necessarily anything to be happy about. Statistics can be very misleading if you don’t know exactly how they are computed and what is being measured.

sohbet November 4, 2008 at 5:48 am

Thanks so much for this! This is exactly

sohbet -
sevgi
mirc

club penguin May 25, 2009 at 10:01 pm

The surgery was an unqualified failure. Without going into too much detail, I almost lost my leg from a botched tib-fib open reduction/internal fixation (plates and screws in my leg). The screwed (pun intended) everything up — the plates, the bones, the screws were out of position, the ankle was left pointed vice at 90 degrees, and the sutures cut off circulation and caused a massive loss of tissue.

Concert Tickets,Sports tickets March 7, 2010 at 8:56 am

The screwed (pun intended) everything up.

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